Skip to main content

Learn All About Indian Whiskies with Paul John Whisky

When it comes to the wide world of whisky, most drinkers can name off the major whisky-producing countries as easily as you could the players on your favorite football team. What you may not know is that India has been consuming and producing whisky a ton of whisky for quite a while.

Just how much? According to the group International Wine and Spirits Research, 193.1 million nine-liter cases of whisky were consumed in India in 2016 (98.24 percent of which was made in India). Globally, 399.2 million cases were consumed in 2016, meaning that India drank just under half of the world’s whisky.

Related Videos

With that staggering number now bouncing around your brain, let’s dig into how the Indian whisky sector got there and why you should be paying attention to it (before it’s too late, as it is with many Japanese age statement whiskies).

paul john indian single malt whisky
Paul John Whisky/Facebook

A Brief History of Whisky in India

Whisky first appeared in India during the British Colonial period (the early 1800s), when the Europeans brought their whiskies (and their India Pale Ales, of course) with them to the country. This led to the establishment of the first brewery in India, which later became the first distillery.

The thing is, a lot of what was produced in the country and was being labeled as whisky wasn’t technically whisky, at least according to European or American standards. Due to food and grain shortages, though, “whisky” was made with a blend of neutral spirits and fermented molasses — what would be identified rum almost everywhere else.

Indian Whisky Today

It wasn’t until the 1980s that a single malt distillery was established. Amrut, the first single malt distillery in India, began producing single malt whiskies from Indian barley, then mixing it with other alcohol before selling it. In 1992, John Distilleries was established, following a similar pattern. As the global market continued to grow and evolve, both distilleries made the move to producing single malt whiskies — Amrut in 2004 and John Distilleries in 2008.

To find out more about Indian single malt whiskies, we sat down with John Distilleries’ master distiller, Michael D’Souza. For the brand’s Paul John whiskies, he says the team uses six-row barley from the foothills of the Himalayas. The higher protein and enzyme content of the barley helps to give the whisky more body and character. They then double-distill in specially designed copper pot stills that were made in India. When it comes times to age the spirit, D’Souza says that India’s climate helps the process greatly.

“The ideal warm weather of coastal Goa helps our whiskies mature faster, unlike those produced in colder climates. Thus every step of the process, from germination to malting and peating, enhances the distinct flavors of our unique whiskies placing them in a niche of their own,” D’Souza says.

Currently, there are five expressions from the brand available in the United States: Brilliance, Edited, Bold, Select Cask Classic, and Select Cask Peated. All of the expressions, D’Souza says, are aged a minimum of six years and some up to eight; they don’t rest longer due to the tropical climate and the accelerated aging process.

paul john whisky
Paul John Whisky

And what do the whiskies taste like?

Let’s start with one of the brand’s three flagships, Brilliance. Cinnamon, spice, honey and, demerara sugar on the nose lead to a spicy, honeyed palate. Hints of cocoa lead into a strong yet smooth vanilla finish.

For the peated flagship, Edited, you’ll find smells of coffee and smoke with some hints of honey and cocoa. The peat is subtle on the palate behind cocoa and mint flavors, which follow through to the finish.

Their final flagship, Bold, is sweet and spicy on the nose as well, this time with honey and licorice dominating the profile. The palate is smooth, with spice notes coming through from beginning to end, with a little bit of smoke and a hint of metallic tang. The finish is light, with cocoa and spice flavors.

paul john whisky lineup
Paul John Whisky

D’Souza says that the whiskies speak to a larger audience — not just those looking to try an Indian whisky for the first time, but those looking to experience something more. “We would like to say our [whisky] is not just a gateway to learn about other Indian whiskies, but a gateway to understand and know that a good single malt whisky can be made anywhere in the world and that a whole new category of whisky is emerging outside traditional whisky-making countries.”

You can use John Distilleries’ store locator tool to find where you can get Paul John Single Malt Whisky near you.

Editors' Recommendations

How to make the perfect breakfast burrito at home
The breakfast burrito: Everyone's favorite grab-and-go breakfast is easier to make than you think
breakfast burrito recipe 5

Is there anyone who doesn't love a good, hearty breakfast burrito? These satisfying little bundles are an easy, delicious, hearty yet simple way to start any day. Or, for that matter, end any day. Breakfast burritos make for a divine dinner that absolutely everyone, including the kids, will love.

As popular as they are, though, breakfast burritos aren't necessarily something we often think to make for ourselves. We usually think of them as a grab-one-with-your-morning-latte-at-the-corner-store kind of food. But if you know how to make a breakfast burrito, you possess a skill that will make you pretty popular. And you'll probably save a ton when you're not dropping six bucks every morning for the corner store version.

Read more
Wait, they made a pink pineapple?
Want something a little different? Look no further than the pink pineapple, an actual thing
A halved pinkglow pineapple.

The best Valentine's Day gift available might just be a pink pineapple. That's right, the tropical fruit long associated with candy-sweet yellow flesh now comes in pink. You can thank the folks at Del Monte for the fruit, which alleges to be juicier and sweeter than traditional pineapple.

Dubbed the jewel of the jungle, this relatively rare breed of pineapple hails from the jungles of Costa Rica. It's a stunning specimen, reminiscent of grapefruit in terms of color and great for snacking or mixing into a drink (after all, in the canon of good tiki drinks, pineapple is king).

Read more
This roaster’s $150 cup of coffee sold out in a single day
Would you shell out for a $150 cup of coffee? Turns out, many people would for one of the top-rated roasts
Person roasting coffee beans in a wok

Splurging is a habit we can't seem to kick. Amid a less-the-perfect economy, we still love to eat expensive caviar, collect wildly high-priced spirits bottles, and order drinks with actual gold in them. Creatures of habit, I suppose.

The latest development within the topic? A coffee cup with an asking price of $150. Yes, a Portland coffee roaster offered a rare and limited-run cup of coffee. It goes down as perhaps the most expensive cup of coffee ever. The real question begs: Is it worth it?

Read more